- Covid-19 enters crucial stage
Friday was the deadliest day in Pakistan’s fight against covid-19,with as many as 81 deaths reported in 24 hours, while the number of covid-19 patients surging from 62,689 to 65,216. The decision taken at the National Cordination Committee (NCC) on May 7 to gradually relax the lockdown led to a widespread pushing and pulling in the markets for Eid shopping, followed by massive violation of SOPs that continues. Statements by Health SAPM Dr Zafar Mirza like “Pakistan’s coronavirus situation is improving compared to other countries” and “Pakistan will soon start manufacturing covid-19 treatment drug” created a false perception that the pandemic was on its way out.
What has actually happened is the opposite. The pandemic has entered a critical stage characterised by a galloping infection rate and a sharp increase in deaths. The PM has called a meeting of the NCC today to take stock of the situation. Many will wait for the outcome with baited breath.
The biggest blunder made by the government in the early days was to take the pandemic lightly, maintaining that it would disappear with the hot weather setting in. Instead of going for a consistent national policy the government has all along indulged in kneejerk reactions.
What the government needs is to work out an evidence-based national policy. Maintaining on one day that Pakistan is a special case because infection rate is low, and on another day blaming the public for not following the SOPs and thus spreading the infection, or explaining away the increase in infection rate by maintaining that this is due to larger number of tests, has to end. It was insensitive on the part of Dr Mirza on Friday to give himself a pat on the back for the situation ‘ not becoming disastrous’ due to effective measures taken by the government.
The government needs to avoid making policies under pressure from lobbies and interest groups. It should display the courage to take unpopular decisions if these can bring down the infection rate. The NCOC maintains that the only successful way to fight Covid-19 is through test, track and quarantine (TTQ) strategy and smart lockdown. What has stopped the government from increasing the tests manifold?